Tampa Bay Lightning trade Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings

Despite the return of Jonathan Quick to the lineup, the Los Angeles Kings appear to have swung for the fences with Ben Bishop.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have agreed to a trade with the Los Angeles Kings, sending Ben Bishop out to the West Coast. This comes despite Jonathan Quick having just made his triumphant return from an injury he suffered on opening night.

The team has also confirmed the deal in a press release. The Lightning acquire Erik Cernak, Peter Budaj, and a 2017 seventh-round pick as well as a conditional pick in 2017 that is likely tied to the Kings’ playoff performance. In return, the Kings get Ben Bishop and a 2017 fifth-round pick.

Erik Cernak is a right-handed defenseman. He was a second-round pick in 2015 by the Los Angeles Kings. Originally from Slovakia, Cernak moved to the OHL to play major junior hockey after he was drafted. He is in his second year with the Erie Otters and has put up 17 points in 40 games this season for Erie. He had 15 points in 41 games last season. In addition, he had an assist in five games for Team Slovakia this season at the World Junior Championship.

After the 2015 draft, Corey Pronman of ESPN ranked Cernak the Kings’ #2 overall prospect, and #57 on his top 100 list. However, after a bit of a disappointing 2015-16 season with Erie, he fell out of Pronman’s Top 120 Prospect list. Here are some notes from our sister site, Jewels From The Crown, when they ranked him #18 in their Top 25 Under 25 series in 2015.

Cernak does have decent size as he is listed at 6’3" and 203 pounds as a 19-year-old. He’ll turn 20 in May and be eligible to play in the AHL full time next season. It’s also worth noting that the Lightning have had prospect Taylor Raddysh with Erie all season and have had Anthony Cirelli with Erie since the beginning of January when he was traded there. Between scouting Raddysh last season, and checking in on their prospects as well as other draft prospects in Erie this season, the Lightning have likely seen a lot of Cernak. That heightens the likelihood that they see something they really like in him.

After the trade of Anthony DeAngelo, the Lightning’s prospect pipeline on the blue line got a little thinner on right-handed defensemen. The only significant prospects were Jake Dotchin, who has made a decent impact lately in Tampa, and Dylan Blujus. Then there was a big drop-off down to Ben Thomas. Cernak likely slots in somewhere in between Dotchin and Blujus.

The conditional pick is apparently a complicated situation based on the LA Kings’ playoff hopes.

As for Peter Budaj, the Lightning get a backup goaltender to play behind Andrei Vasilevskiy. According to CapFriendly.com, Budaj is making $600,000 this year and has $143,333 left of his cap hit for the rest of the season. By contrast, Ben Bishop has $1,421,389 of cap hit left. That additional cap space could be just enough to avoid having any cap overage going into next season.

However, the Lightning are retaining 20% of Bishop’s salary, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN. That will still mean about a $1 million savings on the salary cap.

It will also likely be an audition for Budaj to see if he would be a suitable veteran back-up for Vasilevskiy next season. He will turn 35 before the start of next season though. Unlike when they signed Evgeni Nabokov to be Bishop’s backup, Budaj has been mostly a backup goaltender for five years. He proved this season he can still carry a load in playing 53 games for the Kings. He is more adjusted to being a backup and could be a good partner for Vasilevskiy.